A long hidden treasure of unpublished works by Franz Kafka could soon be revealed after a decade-long battle over his literary property that made comparisons with some of his surreal stories.
The Zurich District Court upheld Israeli verdicts in the case last week, judging that several headquarters in the Swiss city could be open and their contents would be delivered to the Israeli National Library.
The documents can throw a new light on one of the darkest figures of literature, a Jewish language from Prague whose cultural heritage is fiercely contested between Israel and Germany.
Experts speculate that the cache might involve the completion of some of Kafka's major works, many of which were unfinished when they were released after his death.
The Israeli Supreme Court has already taken away the Israeli family from its Kafka manuscript collection that was hidden in the buildings of Israeli banks and in a Tel Aviv apartment. But the decision of Switzerland will complete the acquisition of almost all the famous works of Kafka.
Kafka, whose name became an adjective for describing irreverent legal or bureaucratic processes, was known for his stories about everyday protagonists, destroyed by mysterious events. In the trial, a bank clerk is placed through terrible litigation without being notified of charges against him.
"The absurdity of [legal process] is that it is over property that no one knew what it contains. This, I hope, will finally solve these issues, "said Benjamin Balint, a researcher at the Van Lier Institute in Jerusalem and the author of the latest Kafka trial, which tells the affair.
Kafka left his works to Max Brod, his longtime friend, editor and publisher, shortly before his death from tuberculosis in 1924 at the age of 40. He demanded that his writings be burned unread, but Brod ignored his wishes and published much of what was in his possession – including the novels The Judicial, the Castle and America, which made the previously little-known author posthumously one of the most celebrated writers the 20th century.
But Brod did not announce everything after his death in 1968, instructed his personal secretary, Esther Hof, to transfer Kafka's documents to an academic institution.
Hof, instead, kept the papers and sold them. The original manuscript of the trial was auctioned for £ 1m in Sotheby's in London and went to the German literature archive in Marbach, near Stuttgart.
When Hof died in 2008 at the age of 101, she left the collection of her two daughters, Eva Hof and Ruth Wisler, who survived the Holocaust as herself, who considered the Shadow Brother figure and its archive for their inheritance. Both also died, leaving Wisler's daughters to continue fighting for the rest of the collection.
Yeshjay Ettar, a daughters' lawyer, said his clients legitimately inherited the deeds and called the state to seize their property "shameful" and "first-instance robbery." "
The Israeli National Library claims that Kafka's documents are cultural goods belonging to the Jewish people. "We welcome the judgment of the Swiss court, which responds to all the judgments previously made by the Israeli courts," said David Bloomberg, president of the library, a non-profit and non-governmental body.
"The judgment of the Swiss court ended the preparation of the National Library of Israel to accept the entire literary property of Max Brod, which will be properly handled and made available to the wider public in Israel and the world."